Year 2 Geography, Taipei
The Humanities Department organized a 7D6N Geography learning journey to the cities of Taipei and Taichung in Taiwan during the June Semester Break from 27 May to 2 June 2012. A total of 20 students and two teachers (Ms Ng Mui Leng and Mr Lee Seng Lee) participated in this learning journey to explore a key theme of the Year 2 Geography curriculum, “sustainability”. In this trip, students are exposed to the decision-making processes in ensuring urban sustainability and liveability, food sustainability, and environmental sustainability in Taiwan, an area with similar geopolitical and geoeconomic concerns as Singapore in terms of ensuring food security and energy security as well as enhancing urban liveability for its people.
The academic goals of this learning journey are to provide a platform for experiential learning by students on the challenge of creating environmentally, and socially sustainable paths when matched against practicality of economic progress and to provide fieldwork and research opportunities on topics taught for Year 2s such as urbanization, energy and agricultural trends. In addition, the Humanities Department hopes to foster empathy and social-emotional learning in students when they increase their understanding of the connections and relationships between the various groups of people in their everyday lives. The group of students and teachers is privileged to have the opportunity to visit Hong Dao Junior High School (台北市立弘道國民中學), a Taipei municipal school where they experienced a typical lesson in class and learnt about the school’s strong recycling culture.
As this learning journey focuses on experiential learning, students were introduced to the key objectives and itinerary before the commencement of the learning journey to Taiwan and were required to research further on particular topics and locations in groups. This empowered them to acquire knowledge before the trip and better equipped them to orientate themselves in new surroundings in Taiwan. They were tasked to introduce the topics and/or locations in presentations on site – making sense of they have learned through research and in the classroom in tandem with what they observe and experience in the field.
Through surveys and interviews with local urban residents, store owners, and field experts at the sites such as Urban Redevelopment Office of Taipei, Xin Zhu High-Tech Farm, Taichung Coal Power Plant and Kuosheng Nuclear Plant, what was taught in the classroom became imbued with more affective meanings. Field sites that students conducted their fieldwork at include Shilin Night Market, San Xia Old District and Zhongzheng District of Taipei city where students analyse issues of urban pollution, traffic congestion and quality of life perceptions. Students weigh the benefits and challenges of selecting energy resource generation, organic farming, and urban planning and heritage conservation, looking at these issues through the lens of different perspectives of the various stakeholders. All participants presented their findings and analyses based on their assigned topics at a student seminar on the final day of the learning journey.
Students and teachers alike have had a positive learning experience. In the words of a student, “This learning journey is great in that so many of the things we learn on paper are now really experienced by us. We get to speak with the experts who actually are running power plants and organic farms and making the decisions. This is more than our usual classroom setting and there is much more interaction with what we are learning. Another student’s reflection stated that “through this trip and the group fieldwork that I have done, I have learnt to be flexible in my thinking, to be able to think on the spot in response to my interviewee’s responses, and to think more critically of what I hear and observe. This is another aspect of Geography skills that I have gained more understanding of in addition to the knowledge learnt”. The Humanities Department is encouraged by these positive reviews and looks forward to future Geography learning journeys.